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Tag Archives: Anne Shirley

Weekly Mishmash: June 27-July 3

poster_boyslavesBoy Slaves (1939). Did you notice? TCM last week did a morning-long salute to Anne Shirley with several lesser-seen programmers that the pert actress appeared in — including this child labor exploitation flick. Shirley is glammed down and plays a rather low key supporting role in this one. The story revolves around a a group of Depression-era kiddie hoods who find themselves trapped at an unforgiving turpentine farm run by weaselly Charles Lane. As much as this tries to be a hard hitting exposé a la William Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road, the film stumbles with a half baked plot and predictable casting straight from the Dead End Kids playbook (alpha male, funny black guy, pipsqueak, etc.). Shirley has a few good moments as the one girl at the otherwise male-dominated farm (what’s up with that?). Some good scenes and an interesting idea, but mostly flat and boring.
Meet the Missus (1937). The other Anne Shirley/TCM opus we watched this week is an affable RKO programmer about contest-crazy housewife Helen Broderick, who drags henpecked husband Victor Moore to a Miss America-like pageant in which she’s a front runner. This is one of those movies that is, while pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things, enjoyable enough entertainment. The movie lampoons the ’30s contest craze and beauty pageants in an interesting way. As for the cast, the rubber limbed Broderick is a fair comedienne, and Moore (whom I’ve never seen before) ably does the flustered husband bit. Shirley has a thankless, miniscule role as the couple’s daughter; her scenes are worth watching only for being paired with the dreamy, unknown Alan Bruce (who might as well be Brad Pitt’s grandpa).
Pinocchio (1940). “When you wish upon a star…” Since we had some extra time this holiday weekend, we took in a few old Disney animated features recently purchased on DVD. Pinocchio is the studio at its grandest. This was a transitional work, especially with the character designs; Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket both have the round curves and oversized heads of classic Disney characters, while others like the fox and cat who lure Pinocchio into debauchery have a more rudimentary Silly Symphonies look. The background paintings are some of the lushest ever, especially the detailed rendering of Geppetto’s village in day and night. This film, literally and figuratively, also gets into some of the darkest territory Disney ever ventured to. Today’s namby pamby Disney corporation would never attempt scenes with trapped boys helplessly turning into donkeys, and it’s executed beautifully here. One clever detail I never noticed before: the gigantic eight ball and cue that forms the entrance to Pleasure Island’s pool hall is evocative of the trylon and perisphere at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. That couldn’t have been a coincidence.

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poster_saludosSaludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). This south-of-the-border double feature was the viewing fare at our stay in my parents’ cabin in Northern Arizona. These were interesting to watch, knowing their historical significance as World War II propaganda pieces. The quaint Saludos Amigos is a pleasant if disjointed little travelogue, with Donald Duck guiding viewers through live action footage of South America and some forgettable shorts set in the region. It’s cute, but nothing compared to the quasi-psychedelic follow-up, The Three Caballeros. That film has not only a stronger concept (Donald opening gifts representing the varied cultures of South and Central America), but it also boasts some of the craziest visuals the Disney animators ever attempted. One has to wonder what they were smoking during Donald’s colorful freakout at the end (also the fact that Donald constantly lusts after human women is a bit … odd). The innovative Technicolor live action/animation mashups are a marvel to behold, and the music (particularly the Brazilian “Baía” segment) is divine. In my book, it’s one of the more underrated Disney animated ventures.
The White Ribbon (2009). Just before World War I, the children in a tiny German village come under suspicion for a series of tragic mishaps. The film presents the pure evilness of the crimes committed, and the childrens’ blasé attitudes towards what they did, as the basis for Germany’s developing fascism. Although the film sets up a lot of stories which are never adequately resolved, for the most part I was spellbound. This was mostly due to the film’s gorgeous black and white cinematography, replete with carefully composed, beautifully framed shots. That, paired with a talented cast of unknowns apparently straight out of the 1910s, makes this one of the rare films that presents a fully realized other world. Complaints about the inconclusive ending are duly noted, but I was too wrapped up in all the sharply defined characters in this Children of the Damned/rural Germany universe to care.